The wedding was beautiful, but the reception was over the top. I was refilling my plate with baked brie when I noticed the full menu. Chicken Cordon Bleu. Salmon. Standing Rib Roast. Spinach Risotto. Scalloped Potatoes. Caprese Salad . . . Right then, three waiters marched past, silver trays loaded with assorted petit fours.
This was going to be a serious feast. I’d better save room.
Is that the feeling I have when I sit down to read my Bible? Or am I more like a tired housewife standing blankly in front of my open refrigerator, wondering what in the world to have for dinner?
Where do I feed my hungry soul between sermons? After Bible study has shut down for the summer? After I’ve given up on my “read through the Bible in a year” program? God once said that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3). So I pick up my Bible and open it at random. A familiar verse offers a quick snack. A favorite passage provides some comfort food, as long as I skip the part that leaves a bitter taste. Then I grab a command or two for the road and charge into my day. Slim pickings, but it’ll have to do.
By contrast, God offers us a serious feast. It’s meant to be rich and satisfying. It’s meant to be sweet. David exclaims, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).
What is it that makes the Bible sweet? It is the sweet taste of grace coming from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The good news about Jesus changes how I read my Bible. He is like the middle layer of a three-layer cake.
Let me give you an example. The charming book of Philemon tells the story of a runaway slave and his rightfully offended master. Paul steps in as the mediator. Layer one of this cake is the people in the story. I notice that Paul is acting very unselfishly. He’s offering to pay for something he didn’t break. He’s in prison, too. Wow. What a great example. Layer three is me, my life. I need to be more unselfish, like Paul. I’m not in prison, but I do have three small children. I need to rise above my circumstances.
Dry duty until you taste the middle layer. It’s Jesus who connects us, Paul and me. His grace, mentioned at the beginning and end of this letter, is what Paul had and what I need. His grace, free to us, was paid for by him on the cross. Our Savior paid for something he didn’t break. Where do you think Paul got that idea? Jesus saved all three characters in the story. He is my Savior too, and he will save me today from every selfish thought that makes my life a prison.